What, Gertrude?

I have been thinking about the names of the King and Queen. In the text, their lines are marked by KING and QUEEN – not CLAUDIUS and GERTRUDE.
They are rarely called by their names. In casting my memory around the play, I couldn’t think of any instance of these characters being called by their first names. But here we are – Claudius calls the Queen Gertrude here. And not just once – several times.
It is interesting that though Hamlet is the Prince, he is almost always referred to by name – while his mother and stepfather/uncle are almost always referred to by title. One might be inclined to think that Hamlet’s title is less powerful than the others – or that we are meant to relate to him more because we so often hear his name.

I think, too, about how I KNOW that these are the names of the King and Queen so their names are meaningful to me but there are times when I’ve taught the play and the students almost never see these names. I remember saying something about Claudius and they said, “Who?”
There are ways to cut the play wherein you’d never hear their names.


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